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SERVICEMEMBER’S CIVIL RELIEF ACT (SCRA) Public Law 108-189 Effective December 19, 2003 50 U.S.C. App. §§501-596. LEARNING OBJECTIVES. Identify SCRA issues in civil cases. Learn substantive and procedural requirements of the new SCRA.

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  1. SERVICEMEMBER’S CIVIL RELIEF ACT (SCRA)Public Law 108-189Effective December 19, 200350 U.S.C. App. §§501-596

  2. LEARNING OBJECTIVES • Identify SCRA issues in civil cases. • Learn substantive and procedural requirements of the new SCRA. • Discuss various alternatives facing judges and counsel to protect service members (SM) under SCRA. • Discuss various means by which courts and agencies may foster the effective administration of justice in this area.

  3. PURPOSE OF THE SCRA (1) to provide for, strengthen, and expedite the national defense through protection extended by this Act to servicemembers of the United States to enable such persons to devote their entire energy to the defense needs of the Nation; and (2) to provide for the temporary suspension of judicial and administrative proceedings and transactions that may adversely affect the civil rights of servicemembers during their military service.

  4. SUPREME COURT ON SSCRA “Protect those who have been obliged to drop their own affairs to take up the burdens of the nation.” Boone v. Lightner 319 U.S. 561, 575 (1943)

  5. CONGRESS ON SSCRA “The Shylock, to whom his pound of flesh is dearer than patriotism, is not the only man against whom the soldier must be given relief.” House Military Affairs Subcommittee Report, 1917

  6. HISTORY OF RELIEF ACTS • War of 1812 • Louisiana “suspension” law • Civil War "Stay Laws” • Absolute Moratorium • Laws adopted in North as well as South • Soldiers’ & Sailors’ Civil Relief Act (SSCRA) of 1918 • Authored by Maj John Wigmore, USA JAGC • Introduction of “Material Affect” • Act expired by its terms following WWI

  7. HISTORY OF SSCRA/SCRA • SSCRA of 1940 • Reenactment to protect those “called to arms” • Enactment of 6% interest rate cap (old §526) • 1991 Amendments • Desert Shield/Storm • Partial update; increased certain amounts; added non-discrimination provisions and suspension of malpractice insurance for health care professionals

  8. LIBERAL CONSTRUCTION “The Act should be read with an eye friendly to those who dropped their affairs to answer their country's call.” Le Maistre v. Leffers, 333 U.S. 1, 6 (1948)

  9. NEW, IMPROVED SCRA • On 19 December 2003, President Bush signed the SCRA, a complete revision of the SSCRA. • The SCRA was written to: • clarify the language of the SSCRA • to incorporate and codify many years of judicial interpretation of the SSCRA • to update the SSCRA to reflect developments in American life since 1940

  10. ORGANIZATION – no change • Found at 50 USC App. §§501-596 (cites herein are to 50 U.S.C. App. §___) • Title I - General Provisions • Persons protected and jurisdiction • Non-discrimination provision • Title II - General Relief • Default judgments and stays --§§521, 522, 524, 525 • Fines & Penalties in contracts - §523 • Statutes of Limitation --§526 • Maximum rate of interest - §527

  11. ORGANIZATION (cont.) • Title III (§§531-538) • Major substantive protections against evictions, termination of installment contracts, foreclosure on mortgages and termination of leases by lessees, protection to dependants • Title IV - Life Insurance (§§541-549) • Title V - Taxes and Public Lands • §571 - Residence for tax purposes

  12. DEFINITIONS -- §511 • Servicemember • Active Duty Military of 5 services - • includes Reserves and NG under Title 10 • National Guard under 32 U.S.C. §502(f) • Public Health Service Officers • National Oceanic & Atmospheric Officers • Dependents • SM’s spouse or child • Person that SM provided more than 1/2 support for 180 days preceding application for relief under act

  13. DEFINITIONS -- §511 • Court includes • All Courts • All Administrative Agencies • Whether or not of record Adding Administrative Agencies is a huge expansion of coverage under the SCRA – none of the agencies know this is coming

  14. JURISDICTION -- §512 • SCRA applies toall courts & administrative agencies – federal, state and local -- ALL MEANS ALL • If you thought it was hard before, think of all those ALJs who’ve never heard of SCRA. • SCRA applies to civil cases only • May apply to ANY court which would otherwise have jurisdiction

  15. PERSONS SECONDARILY LIABLE -- §513 • If court grants relief (stay, postponement, suspension of obligation) to servicemember, the relief may also be granted to persons primarily or secondarily liable with the SM • Surety, guarantor, endorser • Accomodation maker, comaker (added by SCRA) • Other person who may be primarily or secondarily subject to the obligation or liability

  16. RESERVES ORDERED TO DUTY -- §516 • Members of Reserve component entitled to protection of SCRA from receipt of mobilization orders • Allows for time to put affairs in order

  17. WAIVER OF RIGHTS -- §517 • Member may waive protections • Waiver must be in writing  Contract, lease or bailment  Mortgage, trust, deed, lien, other security  Repossession, retention, foreclosure, sale, forfeiture, taking possession of property • Must be made during or after period of service

  18. NON-DISCRIMINATION -- §518 • Claiming rights under SCRA cannot be basis for: • Determination by lender that the member is unable to pay • Denial or revocation of credit • Change in terms of existing credit arrangement • Refusal to grant credit to the member • Adverse credit report • Refusal by insurer to insure member • Identifying SM as member of NG or Reserve • Changing the conditions or terms of insurance

  19. LEGAL REPRESENTATIVES§519 • SCRA adds a provision recognizing a legal representative of the Servicemember: • An attorney acting on the behalf of a Servicemember; or • An individual possessing a power of attorney • Legal representative can take the same actions as a Servicemember

  20. EXTENSION OF PROTECTION§§514 and 538 • §514 - Citizens of the U.S. serving with allied forces if service similar to “military service” • §538 - Dependents of SM if dependents ability to comply is materially affected by SM’s military service they may apply for the protections found in Title III

  21. DEFAULT JUDGMENTS -- §521 • Applies only if defendant has not appeared • Plaintiff’s Affidavit • Whether or not defendant is in military; or • If unable to determine status - court may require plaintiff to post bond • If defendant is a military member, court cannot enter default judgment until attorney is appointed to represent military member

  22. NEW STAY PROVISION OF §521 • If defendant is in military, court SHALLstay proceedings • Minimum 90 Days on application of counsel or court’s own motion • Court must determine that there • may be a defense that cannot be presented without presence of defendant; or • after due diligence counsel has been unable to contact defendant or otherwise determine if a meritorious defense exists

  23. SETTING ASIDE DEFAULT JUDGMENTS • Court SHALL reopen a default judgment entered while SM on active duty or within 60 days thereafter, when • SM applies while on active duty or within 90 days thereafter, and shows • Material affect, plus • Meritorious defense • BONA FIDE purchasers protected

  24. STAY PROVISIONS -- §522 • Temporary delay in civil actions until SM-defendant can appear (different from old law) • During period of service plus 90 days • Servicemember has received notice of proceeding • Automatic 90 day stay if: • SM shows military duty materially affects ability to appear, and date when can appear • Commanding officer writes letter stating duty prevents appearance and leave not authorized

  25. CLARIFICATION OF “APPEARANCE” • Application for a stay under §522 does not constitute an appearance for jurisdictional purposes and does not constitute a waiver of any substantive or procedural defense (including a defense relating to lack of personal jurisdiction) • Legislative removal of legal conundrum

  26. EXTENSION OF STAY • SM may apply for additional stay based on continuing material affect of military duty on SM’s ability to prosecute or defend the action • Apparent internal conflict in statute • If Court does not grant additional stay, it shall appoint counsel to represent SM Query: attorney’s duties, who pays fee?

  27. FINES & PENALTIES -- §523 • NO penalties under a contract if performance stayed by Court, and if no stay -- • Court may reduce or waive fine or penalty if • SM was in military service at time of fine/penalty • Performance materially affected by military service

  28. STAY OR VACATION OFJUDGMENTS -- §524 • If military service materially affects compliance with judgment or order: • Court SHALL on application of SM • Stay execution; and • Vacate or stay attachment or garnishment • Court may also act on its own motion

  29. DURATION OF STAYS§525 • May be for the period of service plus 90 days, or any part thereof • Court may set the terms and amounts of any installment payments • Plaintiff may proceed against any codefendants not in military service with court approval

  30. STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS§526 • Period of Military Service NOT included: • In any period limited by law, regulation or order to bring any action or proceeding (including redemption of real property) • By or against SM or heirs or assigns • Does not apply to IRS • Material affect NOT required

  31. MAXIMUM RATE OF INTEREST§527 • PRE-SERVICE loans incurred by SM, or SM and spouse jointly • But not guaranteed student loans (20 USC §1078(d)) • Cap of 6% per annum; all excess FORGIVEN • Have to recompute payments at 6% rate • Cap rescinded if creditor shows no material affect • SM must give written notice w/copy of orders • Private right of action – Cathey v. First Republic Bank

  32. SSCRA IN PRACTICE • Cathey v. First Republic Bank • Private right of action affirmed • § 526 of SSCRA (now 50 U.S.C. App. §527) applies to corporate debt if the service member is personally liable • Summary judgment granted; case settled (May 2002) on the eve of trial

  33. EVICTIONS & DISTRESS§531 • Can ONLY evict upon court order • Applies to SM or dependants • Residential rent does not exceed $2,400/mo (in 2003) (CPI adjusted to $2,465 in 2004) • Ability to pay materially affected by service • Court SHALL stay for minimum 90 days, or • Adjust the lease obligations • Criminal sanctions for violation • Dependents have right to invoke

  34. INSTALLMENT CONTRACTS FOR PURCHASE OR LEASE --§532 • In event of breach of contract, no termination or repossession of property without court order • Applies to pre-service obligation • Purchase, lease, or bailment of real or personal property • Payment or deposit made prior to service • Misdemeanor offense for violation • After hearing, a court may order repayment to SM to terminate contract, or • SHALL stay the proceeding if SM’s ability to comply is materially affected and SM applies– length of stay determined by Court • May stay on court’s own motion

  35. MORTGAGE FORECLOSURE PROTECTION -- §533 • Similar protection as for installment contracts and leases under §532, but applies to obligations on real or personal property secured by a mortgage • Applies to pre-service obligations • Applicable: period of service + 90 days • Court may stay proceedings or adjust obligation upon showing of material affect

  36. SETTLEMENT OF STAYED CASES PERSONAL PROPERTY - §534 • Personal property lien foreclosure, repossession, or contract termination • Court may appoint 3 appraisers • Court may order SM’s equity repaid as a condition of foreclosure or repossession • Only if there will be no undue hardship to SM’s dependants

  37. RIGHT TO TERMINATE LEASES §535 – HOME, BUSINESS, AUTO • SCRA provisions on lease cancellation are significantly different from the old SSCRA • May apply regardless of whether lease is pre-service or not • Takes into consideration the realities of long-term deployments on both active duty and Guard/Reserve members • Adds ability to cancel vehicle leases in certain situations • Obviates the need for “military clauses” in leases • Continues criminal penalties for noncompliance by lessors

  38. TERMINATION OF PREMISES LEASES • Applies to pre-service leases of premises; or • Premises leases signed by SM (or on SM’s behalf) after entering military service when SM receives PCS orders or deployment orders for not less than 90 days • Qualifying lease is terminated by delivery of written notice with copy of orders to lessor or lessor’s agent (hand delivery, mail, FedEx)

  39. TERMINATION OF PREMISES LEASES (con’t.) • Termination effective: • If rent payable monthly – 30 days after first date next payment due after notice is delivered • All others – last day of month following month in which notice is delivered • Rentals unpaid for period preceding the effective date of termination must be prorated and paid

  40. TERMINATION OF VEHICLE LEASES • Pre-service vehicle leases • If SM is called up or enters service for 180 days or more; or • Vehicle lease executed after service commences if: • SM receives OCONUS PCS orders or • SM receives deployment orders for period of 180 days or more • Notice of termination must be in writing, delivered to lessor (or lessor’s agent or grantee) along with copy of military orders (by hand, mail or FedEx)

  41. TERMINATION OF VEHICLE LEASES (con’t.) • Vehicle must be surrendered within 15 days of termination notice • Lease terminated effective date vehicle surrendered • No penalties allowed for early termination • Misdemeanor to wrongfully retain personal property or security deposit • Leasing companies are totally clueless of this new section

  42. TERMINATION OF LEASES§535 • RELIEF TO LESSOR.—Upon application by the lessor to a court before the termination date provided in the written notice, relief granted by this section to a Servicemember may be modified as justice and equity require. • SCRA recognizes right to seek award for consequential or punitive damages “otherwise available under law”

  43. PROTECTION OF LIFE INSURANCE§536 • Policy assigned as security prior to military service • Need court order to exercise rights, unless • Written consent of insured • Premiums due and unpaid • Death of insured • During period of service plus 1 year • Court may refuse to grant order if ability to comply materially affected by service • Misdemeanor for violation • Other remedies preserved (as with §535)

  44. ENFORCEMENT OF STORAGE LIENS -- §537 • ONLY Court ordered enforcement • Liens for ANY reason • Court SHALL stay or adjust the obligations of all parties if SM applies and ability to comply is materially affected • Court may do same on own motion • Misdemeanor to knowingly use self-help • Other remedies preserved

  45. TITLE IVLIFE INSURANCE • Protection for unpaid premiums on life insurance expanded to equal SGLI coverage (currently $250,000) • Upon application (to Secretary of Veterans Affairs), determination made if policy qualifies for protection • If so, premiums may be deferred for period of service and for 2 years thereafter, contingent on ultimate payment of the premiums • Government guarantees the premiums

  46. TAXES RESPECTING PERSONAL & REAL PROPERTY -- §561 • Tax or assessment falls due and is unpaid • Which arose before or during military service on • Personal Property, including vehicles; or • Real Property occupied by SM, dependants, or employees • Before entry into military service, and • During period tax remains unpaid • Court order to sell only if no material affect • Court may stay for period of service plus 180 days • SM has right to redeem for service plus 180 days

  47. INCOME TAXES§570 • Must be able to show material affect • Payment of Federal, State or Local tax deferred for period of service plus 180 days • No interest or penalty • Statute of limitations suspended for period of service plus 270 days

  48. RESIDENCE FOR TAX PURPOSES -- §571 • Applies to income and personal property tax • Taxed only by state of SM’s domicile • Applies only to military pay • May not use the military pay to gross-up combined income into a higher bracket (overrules the “Kansas Rule”)

  49. INAPPROPRIATE USE OF ACT§581 If a court determines, in any proceeding to enforce a civil right, that any interest, property, or contract has been transferred or acquired with the intent to delay the just enforcement of such right by taking advantage of this Act, the court shall enter such judgment or make such order as might lawfully be entered or made concerning such transfer or acquisition.

  50. CERTIFICATES OF SERVICE§582 • A Certificate of the Service Secretary shall be prima facie evidence as to all aspects of a person’s military service, or non-service. • Such a certificate shall be furnished upon application (by whom???) – try DMDC • A SM missing in action is presumed to continue in service until accounted for.

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